David Jones (1895-1974) was born in Kent. His mother was a Londoner, his father, who worked as a printer’s overseer, came from an old Welsh family, and Jones was to say that “from about the age of six, I felt I belonged to my father’s people and their land, though brought up entirely in an English atmosphere.” At six, too, Jones discovered his passion for drawing, which he knew was the “one thing he could do.” He attended art school for some years, but in 1915 he was sent with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers to fight in France, where he was in the battles of the Somme and Ypres. Jones converted to Roman Catholicism in 1921, and in 1922 began a long association with the artist, designer, and writer Eric Gill. In Parenthesis, based on Jones’s experiences in World War I, was published in 1937, followed in 1952 by another, even more unclassifiable but indubitably major work, The Anathémata. The Sleeping Lord, fragments from an unfinished larger composition about the crucifixion, appeared in the last year of his life. David Jones’s drawings and paintings can be found in the collections of the Tate Museum, the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, and the National Museum of Wales.
“This writing has to do with some things I saw, felt, and was part of”: with quiet modesty, David Jones introduces one of the grandest imaginative efforts to grapple with World War I.